When a person’s memory declines, how does it feel? Can life still be good?
On a bright and beautiful Sunday morning, we were invited to talk with May at her home in Manoa Valley. May is a friendly, outgoing person. Her daughter, Kathy, tells us that in the past she would greet all the bank tellers and store clerks by name. Even though May’s memory has now declined, she continues to exude a positive, friendly persona that helps her live with warmth and grace.
We had met May before and she had been at first a little nervous but that went away quickly. She likes to chat, is curious about us, and happily retells stories from her life. She tells us that she enjoys life and that she enjoys going on walks. (She did say that she misses driving!!) She also has friends and regular company from a caregiver. She loves her home and likes to sit by the window and watch people.
When asked how it feels to not remember things, it didn’t seem to bother her that much. She says: “No, I don’t feel depressed or anything, but I feel—oh wow, I’m getting old—I accept that . . . pretty good.”
May frequently talks about her deceased husband although her memory is clearly fading. Talking about her husband doesn’t seem to make her sad. It sounds more like she remembers that as a wonderful time in her life. May is Mom to Anna, John, Kathy, and Alan. They’ve taken very good care of her. Kathy tells us that her mom does show some frustration at times when she cannot remember things. Kathy also said: “Mom, you enjoy food in general, you’re not picky, you eat everything.”
May’s emotions remind us of John Zeisel’s comment about life with Alzheimer’s Disease in his book I’m Still Here: A New Philosophy of Alzheimer’s Care. Life with Alzheimer’s, he writes, "can be seen as a glass mostly full or completely empty—and each is a state of mind.” The book goes in to detail about new life experiences and the fact that the person with memory problems is still here. He gives examples of personal accounts:
"I am still very much a part of the world and I'm not contagious"
"I am very much still alive with feelings, thoughts and the need to express myself and stay engaged in life".
We were interested to see how May played with the MemoriesConnect app for the 2ndtime and if she enjoyed it as much as our first visit. Her excited response after playing the app was “This is fun!” and “This is great!
Hooray, we’re happy too!! Our goal is to provide a tool to help the person with memory disability feel “still here”; connected, validated and with joy and enjoyment in life.